time flies like an arrow and the notion of sentence
iver_larsen at sil.org
Sat Jul 28 03:23:38 EDT 2001
> Consider the following two interpretations:
> (1) I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart / I can be
> forever happy
> (2) I have no feelings whatsoever / when we're apart I can be
> forever happy
This kind of interpretational ambiguity is, of course, quite common when we
interpret a written text in Greek and many other languages. We would not
have the same problem with spoken text. I think it is more related to how
spoken language is reduced to writing than related to the definition of a
sentence. The ambiguity is resolved either by supplying the whole context -
or by having more cohesive markers as Mike pointed out - or by indicating
the grammatical significance of the pauses and intonation patterns which
were stripped out when the text was written down. Even if the text was only
conceived in the mind, there would be a structure that would result in
certain pauses and intonation were the text to be spoken.
By the way, in traditional Danish grammar we do not have different terms for
clause and sentence. We only have main sentences and part-sentences, and
these two terms do not correspond exactly to sentence and clause,
respectively. The part-sentence is dependent/subordinate to a main sentence
or it can be subordinate or coordinate to another part-sentence. A main
sentence can be coordinated to another main sentence. The word sentence on
its own refers to either a simple one-clause sentence or to a complex
sentence with one main sentence and one or more part-sentences.
The difference between the significance of a semicolon and a period does not
indicate a syntactical difference, because it only shows whether two main
sentences are considered closely coordinated or less closely coordinated.
Whereas periods, commas and question marks help the reader to analyse the
syntactical structure of a written text, semicolons have no such function. I
never use semicolons myself, but some people like them.
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